Low-income Gainesville residents may soon be living alongside UF students as a mixed-use development proposal is set to be built next to campus.
The City Commission will make the final decision this month on the construction of an affordable housing and student living apartment building, located at 1227 W. University Ave. where Felipe’s Mexican Taqueria once stood. The plans include a 10-story apartment building with 151 housing units, 10% of which will be for affordable housing, according to a Friday city press release.
This follows the city’s goals set forth in their master plan, which aims to provide affordable rental housing for Gainesville residents. Specific rates are unclear as of Oct. 10.
The rent price for the 15 affordable units will be lower than surrounding apartments like The Standard or The Hub, Commissioner David Arreola said.
The affordable housing units will be available to people who make 60% or below of the median income in the city, Gainesville Housing Authority CEO Pamela Davis said. The Gainesville Housing Authority may also refer people who make 80% or below the median income to live there, Davis said. The 2020 median family income in Gainesville was $69,800.
Davis said the Gainesville Housing Authority provides housing for low-income families in Gainesville, and people can apply for affordable housing through GHA. It will refer people who qualify for affordable housing to Lincoln Ventures, the real estate firm that owns the property, to ensure low-income families are using the units.
“Housing is expensive, and it’s a basic necessity for families for stability and security,” Davis said. “We want to make sure that all of our families have an opportunity to be successful in our community.”
The apartment will have mixed-income housing with students and low-income families. The building’s proximity to UF allows people to walk to classes or on-campus jobs, City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos said. This helps people save money on car expenses and save time on long bus rides.
However, there’s still a massive need for housing in Gainesville, Hayes-Santos said. He said he hopes the commission will hear an inclusionary zoning act later this year to mandate affordable housing in new housing developments.
Fred Sowder, a 51-year-old UF alumnus born and raised in Gainesville, said the building could improve the interaction between Gainesville residents and UF students.
“Students need to start immersing themselves in other cultures and being around other people's socioeconomic backgrounds,” he said.
Sowder said he feels having only 10% of the housing units being available to low income families is too low.
“It's a good start, but I think that the city can hopefully either do more projects like that in the future or bump up that percentage a little bit,” he said.
Kim Tanzer, a former UF architecture professor and licensed architect, said she remains unconvinced that the apartment will be marketed toward low-income families.
“The affordable housing that's being provided by the Gainesville Housing Authority will be not for those desperately low-income families, but rather for people in their 30s or 40s who want to live near where they work at the university,” she said.
She said she doesn’t believe a family with children would want to live in that area with hundreds of other students.
“I don't think a family with children would benefit from living in a building with 600 students.” she said.
Tanzer also raises the question of whether the Gainesville Housing Authority should be involved with a development company. Typically developers are allowed to build extra units with the promise that some of them are affordable, so this situation will actually benefit the developer, she said.
Meghan McGlone is a UF junior majoring in journalism and English, and this year she’s the City and County Commission reporter. In past years, she’s served as the University Editor, the Student Government reporter, and other positions. Her favorite past time is eating gummy worms and reading a good book.
Jiselle Lee was The Alligator’s Summer 2023 Editor-In-Chief. She was previously a reporter with NextShark News and a reporting intern at The Bradenton Herald.